Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hello, goodbye, hello

I started emailing and wrote my emails in the same way that I’d written letters all my life - Dear Whoever, How are you? I’m writing to tell you, etc, etc. I waited for the email etiquette sky to fall in, but it didn’t.

Okay, I soon became adept at sending one-line replies to email and in particularly pressurised moments would skip the ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and not bother to sign my name. But all these years and thousands of emails later, at work I still stick to minimal conventions, even on one-liners, with a ‘hi’ at the beginning of the line and my name at the end (or an initial if time’s tight.) In my own writing mind, I make little distinction between email and letters, except for the rapidity of email.
Hello, hi, hey, g'day, howdy, greetings, and bonjour! It's certainly true that the way you open an email, introduce yourself, greet others, make yourself at home, bid others welcome, bow, exchange compliments, and usher yourself in is important. As for the person reading, are they going to be a Dear Reader, a Dear Mr Reader, a dear Mrs Reader, a Dear Ms Reader, a Mate, a Friend, and on a First Name or a Last Name basis?

You could go on and on with opening flourishes and starting gambits, paying respects and hailing others, and if you were actually writing a letter, you'd better make it brief, terse, short, to the point without being glib, aphoristic without being abrupt, and breviloquent without being brusque. But in an email, you could conceivably carry on all day embracing, curtsying, salaaming, namasting, shaloming, guten taging, bongiorning, nodding, and noticing, not to mention ovating, saluting, salutating, and maybe even ovulating and salivating a bit.

As a matter of fact, there are so many ways of accosting, addressing, welcoming, whistling, high fiving, shaking hands, and making an entree that you could even complete an entire email in this way, making speeches, flagging, nodding and noticing, that before long you find you have nothing else to say. Except for goodbye, cheerio, what-ho, toodle-oo, pip pip, ciao for niao, farewell, adieu, adios, auf wiedersehen, so long, and generally making your swan song, bowing out, vacating, and relinquishing your hold in the conversation. It's generally a depressing part of the conversation, and you might want to continue on for a while with your good daying and heralding and your other methods of greeting just to avoid the painful and sorrowful matter of deserting, discarding the others company, stopping, quitting, and making your valediction.

And why don't you? If you've got this far with your greetings then you might as well carry it on right to the end of your email; and heaven knows that most of the time, people don't have anything substantial to say anyway. The world would be much nicer and happier, and conversation a great deal wittier, if we just contented ourselves with exchanging pleasantries all the time, and even when it came time to leave we did that with a greeting, too. Perhaps it wouldn't lessen the pain of parting, but it certainly would allow us to put a brave face on it.

And on that note, Dear Reader/Friend/Acquaintance/First Name/Last Name/Middle Name/Nickname/Internet Nickname Composed For The Purposes of Anonymyity/Non-gender Specific Person, it's time for me to sign off.

Hello, then!


Maria said...

Dear TimT,

What ho!

This reminds me so much of my Mum's conversations on the phone, generally when she's speaking to her close friends or sisters, and she'll say, "Well [friend] I really must get a move on now, I'll see you tomorrow, have a good dinner, say bye to [their son] for me, have a good time watching [tv show] ..." generally the closing salutations took longer than the rest of the conversation.

'Twas indeedy a good chat with you, TimT. Thanks for the pleasure of your blog. I trust I shall be seeing more of you soon. Greatly appreciate your work. 'Til next time, but til then,

Yours cheerily,

and most Sincerely,

sorry to be brief like this but am pressed for time,

Promise to catch up with you at a later date,

Well, guess I'd better go now,

Thanks again,

Your fellow blogger,

And blog commenter,

And great admirer and fan of yours,


TimT said...

Yes, a lot of conversations are like that - the leavetaking turns out to be an excuse for further dialogue. Goodbyes are in fact a good filler-in moment in a conversation you don't actually want to wind up - while you're saying farewell, it gives either you or the people you are talking to time to make a diversion in conversation and come up with something else to talk about.

Once I signed off the phone to my mother this way:

TIM: Right-ho!

MUM: Cheery-oh!

TIM: What-ho!

MUM: (Running out of things to say) Oh.

(She should probably have said 'Go', which would have rounded things off nicely by making me look like an idiot.)

Email: timhtrain - at -

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